Tahoe Country: Living in Bear Country

Bear stories are a favorite pastime of Lake Tahoe's West Shore residents.

Old Brin
Since 1870 "Old Brin", an 800 pound brindle colored grizzly had been preying on livestock and humans on the West Shore. In 1881 Lugi Barnetto, a Basque sheepherder, had the misfortune of getting treed by "Old Brin". The beast's deep coughing roars could be heard for miles. Eventually losing his grip Barnetto's agonizing yell replaced the beast's roars. Little evidence was left of the death scene the following morning - that is except the bark Old Brin had torn off the first nine feet of the yellow pine sapling.

First encounters
In the late 1940's a San Franciscan named Arthur came to the lake for the first time with three friends who had a cabin in Homewood and who were experienced mountain travelers. On the journey over the mountain they told Arthur lots of bear stories. By the time they reached the cabin it was dark. They asked Arthur to go outside to fetch some wood but as soon as he heard rustling in the bushes he came running back inside. Arthur's friends suggested he camp out back in the little cabin since there was no food there to attract the bears. Then they got the idea to make noises outside Arthur's cabin to scare him. When the prank was done they returned joyfully to the other cabin - where they found the largest black bear they had ever seen, standing in the kitchen.

Never stand under a treed cub!
Old Al Fanger who lived at the 'Peek of Blue' a Tahoma lakefront had two favorite tales about bears. One day he was walking on his property and as he came around a large tree he found himself face to face with a cub.The frightened cub climbed up the tree. Fanger looked up to watch it climb, but the cub got even more frightened and lost control of its bowels - all over Fanger. Fanger never again stood under a treed cub.

Dead meat on a hoof.
Another day Fanger accidentally hit a bear near Emerald Bay. Thinking it was Dead Meat on a Hoof he stuffed it into the back seat of his car and headed off to Tahoma. Along the way he felt hot breath on the back of his neck and looked in the rearview mirror only to find the bear awake and angry. He stopped the car, opened the back door and the bear took off running.

Hey Yoggie!

Not many people know it but our former Meek's Bay Fire Chief, Dick Olsen, is terrified of bears. One day a concerned driver stopped in the station. There was a bear sitting on a large boulder on the side of the road near Rubicon Bay. He seemed to be admiring the view and not frightened by the chaos he was causing. Cars were stopping in awkward places to admire him and an accident was sure to happen.Chief Olsen drove to the scene hoping the bear and its onlookers had left, but instead found 20 people gathered. Trying to make light of the situation he took a deep breath, then called over his loudspeaker: "This ain't Jelly stone and that up there on the rock sure ain't Yoggie !"

Midnight snacks.
Many campers at Sugar Pine Point State Park disregard the Bear Warnings posted throughout the park. One such family took left-over barbecued chicken in their tent for a midnight snack. When their furry guest arrived and began digging at the tent's door, they cut a hole in the backside of the tent and fled to their car. So frightened, they flew through the Sugar Pine Gate and drove all the way to the South Tahoe Park Rangers' Office before reporting the incident.

Mama bear and the 3 cubs.
Scott Rapanos was curled up by the fire watching TV at the lakefront estate he care takes. He heard unusual noises and got up to look out the window. He didn't see anything, but kept hearing the noises, so he looked in the kitchen. There he found 3 little bears: one on the butcher block with his paws up, one on the window sill and the other on his hind legs with pasta hanging out of his mouth. He knew Mama Bear was sure to be near so he looked out the living room windows and saw her at the bottom of the outside stairwell. He called a neighbor for help and his reaction was "Are you crazy, no way I'm coming over there!" So he grabbed a broom, poked it playfully at the cubs and managed to get them to leave. In no hurry, they continued to play around the deck before rejoining Mama Bear.

Epicurean delights.
Nanette's fine cuisine drew a daily furry visitor to her trash can. Always the same bear, and always the same methods. He would knock the can over, carefully spread the garbage out, sort through it, eat what he pleased, and then leave. After weeks of having to clean up after the bear, Nanette saw no other solution than to have him transported out of the area. To her dismay the bear returned, not willing to give up her epicurean delights. But he now cleaned up his own messes.

Put your arms up and grunt!
Tom Coolidge, an avid mountain biker was having a frustrating day biking from Tahoe City to Truckee. His chain broke at the top of Mt. Watson (El.8424 feet) and he had to push his bike back through Antone Meadows. Suddenly a little bear leaped out of the bushes and went up on his hind legs. Tom had heard that in such a circumstance you should make yourself seem big. He dropped his bike, raised his arms up in the air and the bear took off running.

Stories compiled by Jill Beede. Bear photos by Don Davis.

Back to Tahoe Country Flora and Fauna

©Tahoe Country 1996-2000